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Criminalisation of
Updated 25 October 2015
National Law:
Maximum Penalties:
Belize Criminal Code, Chapter 101 (revised
edition, 2000)1
Treaty Ratification
10 years’ imprisonment
S53: Unnatural Crime
The law is equally applicable to both men and women.
Whilst the law is rarely enforced with imprisonment, there have been instances
where the law is used to ‘extort gay men’.3
March 2015: Immigration law in Belize prohibits LGBT people from entering the
country, however in March 2015 the country’s acting Immigration Director said the
regulation is not enforced as a matter of policy: ‘For immigration purposes, we will
not prosecute, based on homosexual orientation.’ 4
A number of positive statements have been made recently supporting the rights of
LGBT people:
May 2015: To coincide with International Day Against Homophobia and
Transphobia (IDAHOT) 2015,
2015 First Lady of Belize Mrs Kim Simplis Barrow, who also
holds the position of Special Envoy for Women and Children in the country,
released a video statement in which she repeated her warnings from 2013
regarding the ‘harsh reality’ of bullying against LGBT community and the loss of
basic human rights.5 The IDAHOT event was well attended by members of the
community, general supporters, well-known
known personalities,
personalities and representatives
from the diplomatic corps in Belize.
May 2015:
2015 In an article for the New York Times,, Julia Scott reported that ‘the Belize
attorney general [Wilfred Elrington] told me that he personally believes that Section
53 is discriminatory, though his office is obligated to defend it in court.’
court 7
November 2014:
2014 The Belize Association of Evangelical
gelical Churches called for a
national referendum on the question of whether Belize should continue to retain
Statements by
Public Figures
The Human Dignity Trust, County House, 14 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8AT, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 207 419 3770 Fax: +44 (0) 207 419 2475
section 53 of its Criminal Code.8 The Association also issued a statement alleging
the US Embassy’s apparent intent to ‘push the homosexual agenda on smaller
nations’. ‘It seems they are intent on exporting their immorality to the nations of
the world as “strings attached” to funding packages.’ 9
13 May 2014: In response to a case being brought to the Caribbean Court of Justice
against the Belize government by Maurice Tomlinson who has claimed Belize’s antihomosexual laws discriminate against him as a CARICOM national, Minister of
Immigration, Godwin Hulse, argued that as Belize’s laws are not enforced changing
the law would be without effect: ‘For me the position is very simple; nobody at
immigration is going to ask anybody to declare their sexual orientation and that's
not a question coming into the country. So, how on earth are you going to know
who is who and [who] to refuse or otherwise allow them entry? There striking it out
makes no difference to the law at all.’10
29 April 2014: The Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, defended the right of
some civil society organisations to raise Belize’s LGBTI discrimination record at the
Organisation of American States.11
25 April 2014: A former British Psychiatrist, Deborah Pitt, submitted a letter to the
Belize national newspaper Amandala urging Belize to keep its anti-gay laws.12
March 2014: The Catholic Church’s bishop in Belize issued a directive to all Catholic
schools and organisations to not cooperate with various NGOs engaged in HIV
prevention work, including UniBAM, the National AIDS Commission, and Belize
Family Life Association. The bishop’s directive addressed the organizations’ ‘agenda
of sodomy, abortion, and sexual-gender redefinition’, which is seeking to ‘radically
change Belize’s Christian character’.13
21 September 2013: The Belize Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech,
warned church groups that, whilst he would support their right to speak freely on
the issue of homosexuality, the Belize constitution guarantees equal rights for all
citizens: ‘Government will therefore fully respect the right of the churches to
propagate their understanding of the morality, or immorality, of homosexuality. But
what Government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without
exception, enjoy the full protection of the law.’ 14
11 July 2013: Belize Senator, Lisel Alamilla, wrote a public statement criticising the
lynching of an effigy which had the word ‘UNIBAM’ (United Belize Advocacy
Movement: a Belize gay rights organisation) written on it; an action which she said
raised concerns about the potential promotion of hate crimes in the country.15
17 May 2013: Belize’s First Lady, Kim Simplis-Barrow, speaking at IDAHOT
(International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia), argued that, regardless of
views towards sexuality, ‘bullying and physical violence is never the answer’.16
As with many countries, reports of persecution emerging from Belize are few, yet
this is likely a result of societal prejudices and an unwillingness on the part of
people discriminated against to come forward. The 2013 US Country Report
indicates multiple physical attacks carried out on LGBTI people, with sexual and
gender minorities too fearful of the police to report abuse.17
9 July 2015: Leading LGBT rights activist Caleb Orozco’s neighbour was found guilty
of throwing missiles and using indecent words at him and was ordered by a court to
apologise to Caleb.18
17 April 2015: At a press conference in April 2015, UNAIDS Caribbean reportedly
released the findings of a research stating that people are generally more accepting
in Belize. Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Ernest Massiah, Regional Director,
UNAIDS Caribbean said: ‘Number one, I would say is, compared to the other
countries, with the exception of Suriname, Belize is more accepting than a lot of the
other countries. There is something interesting and important that is happening in
Belize, where we see that thirty four percent say they would accept someone if they
were gay or homosexual.’ 19
2014: The US Human Rights Country Report documented that the extent of
discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was difficult to
ascertain due to lack of official reporting of instances of discrimination. Local LGBT
rights advocates noted that LGBT persons feared police and had been harassed
while reporting unrelated crimes. They also noted that police at times refused to
accept reports of crime from LGBT persons.20 UniBAM, the country’s first legally
registered LGBT advocacy organisation, reported that continuing harassment and
insults by the public affected its activities, and its members were reluctant to file
complaints. In January, assailants killed Joseph Sanchez, a transgender teen, in the
early morning in Belize City. While members of the LGBT community condemned
the killing as a hate crime, local authorities investigated the incident as general
homicide with attempted robbery as the motive.
16 June 2014: A transgender woman was reportedly attacked with stones and
bricks and was punched in the face before being rescued by police. According to
the report, before her attack her attackers yelled: ‘why is a f*king faggot walking
this block’.21
14 January 2014: Joseph Jatnel Sanchez, a man living in Belize, was stabbed to
death in what police described as an attempted robbery. His family disputed those
claims saying he was frequently victimised for dressing in ‘women’s clothing’. The
family report that he was dressed as a woman on the night he was attacked and
was found with his mobile phone and money still on his person. Human rights
lawyer Lisa Shoman similarly disputed the police’s version of events: ‘Belize has one
of the highest rates of violent crime per capita, but this was not ‘mere’ robbery,
except in the sense that he was robbed of his life.’ 22
15 February 2013: Caleb Orozco, an LGBTI rights activist in Belize currently
challenging the legality of its anti-homosexuality provisions, stated that there have
been ‘27 murders of gay men in its various forms between 1997 and 2012’.23
2012: The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to
freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights defenders sent a joint communication about an alleged attack against
a LGBT activist. According to the information received, on 8 February 2012, the
President of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UniBAM), an organisation
working for the rights of LGBT persons, Caleb Orozco was attacked on George
Street in Belize City. It was reported that unidentified men had shouted anti-gay
slurs at him and then had thrown a beer bottle at him which had struck him in the
face. The Human Rights Committee was concerned by reports of violence against
LGBT persons and urged Belize to ensure that cases of violence against LGBT
persons were thoroughly investigated, the perpetrators prosecuted and the victims
adequately compensated.24
March 2015: The Caribbean Court of Justice heard a challenge to immigration laws
in Belize and Jamaica preventing the entry of LGBT people. The case was brought
by Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson, and judgement was reserved for a future
5 June 2014: The country noted it could not approve an OAS resolution on sexual
orientation, as the matter is currently before the courts.26
October 2013: The National Assembly considered amendments to the Criminal
Code to reform provisions relating to sexual offences. The Criminal Code
(Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2013 included changes to the definition of rape and sexual
offences against children. No changes were proposed to amend section 53.27
2013: The government published a revised National Gender Policy 2013 which was
designed to tackle issues of gender equality, gender equity and women’s
empowerment, focusing on strategies to reduce gender disparities in five key
areas: health; education/skills training; wealth and employment generation;
violence-producing conditions; and power and decision-making. According to
Belize’s latest UPR (see below for more details), the government was continuing to
work on a revised implementation plan for the new policy. ‘The delegation stated
that a part of what constituted a barrier to the development of the implementation
plan for the gender policy was resistance from churches, especially the evangelical
churches. In certain sectors, they requested complete withdrawal of the policy
because it spoke to respect for diversity, including the acknowledgement of sexual
orientation as a type of diversity. It spoke to providing sexual and reproductive
health services for vulnerable groups, including men who have sex with men and
commercial sex workers. Because of those factors, the evangelical council and other
churches had called for a complete removal of the policy. Nonetheless, the Prime
Minister stated his commitment to the policy and opened the door for submissions
of concerns by the council, but the plans of action for various sectors were in place
and Belize would continue the work in ensuring gender equity and equality and
women’s empowerment under the rubric of that policy.’ 28
2013/2014: (UPR) In its 2nd cycle Universal Periodic Review, numerous states
recommended that Belize remove laws which criminalise and discriminate on the
basis of same-sex sexual orientation and review its constitution to ensure that
discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are
prohibited.29 Belize noted these recommendations and confirmed that they would
remain under review. 30
2012/2013: A legal challenge by Caleb Orozco, founder of the NGO United Belize
Advocacy Movement’s (UniBAM), was brought against section 53 of the Criminal
Code (Unnnatural Crime). Substantive arguments were heard in May 2013, but the
Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the law remained pending as
of September 2015.31
The law is :
Belize Criminal Code, Chapter 101, s53: ‘Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature
with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.’
Mintz, Z., ‘Homophobia In The Caribbean: Anti-Sodomy Laws And Persecution, Being Gay Is No Fun In The
Islands’, (IB Times 9 August 2013) <> accessed on 19 July 2014
Wee, D., ‘Landmark case challenges anti-gay laws in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago’, (Gay Star News 19 March
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, IDAHOT reports 2015: Belize,
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 'Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Belize'
(US Department of State 2014)
accessed on 5 September 2015
Scott, J., ‘The Lonely Fight Against Belize’s Antigay Laws’, (New York Times 22 May 2015)
<> accessed on 18 September 2015.
Ramos, A., ‘Churches call for referendum on sodomy law’, (Amandala, 28 November 2014)
Plus TV Belize, ‘Evangelical Association outraged by US Embassy’s meddling in Belizean domestic issues’,
(26 November 2014) <
7 News Belize, ‘Hulse: Tomlinson Free To Travel To Belize’, (7 News Belize 13 May 2014)
<> accessed on 19 July 2014
PlusTV Belize, ‘Consequences to Face after UNIBAM\'s Tainting of Belize in the OAS’, (Youtube 19 April 2014)
<> accessed on 19 July 2014
Pitt, D., ‘British Citizen Argues against Decriminalizing Homosexuality’, (Amandala 22 April 2014)
<> accessed on 19
July 2014
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Belize,
(US Department of State 2014)
accessed on 5 September 2015
Belizean, ‘Belize PM Independence Day Speech: More Projects, Spending, Warning To Churches’, (Belizean 21
September 2013) <> accessed on 19 July 2014
News 5 Belize, ‘Minister Alamilla appalled by hanging of UNIBAM effigy in P.G’, (News 5 Belize 11 July 2013)
<> accessed on 19 July 2014
Sanpedro Sun, ‘IDAHO: International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, May 17 ’, (Sanpedro Sun 17
May 2013) <> accessed on 19 July 2014
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013: Belize,
(US Department of State 2013)
accessed on 19 July 2014
News Five, ‘Caleb Orozco’s Neighbor Found Guilty of Gay Bashing and Throwing Missiles’, (9 July 2015)
<> accessed on 18 September 2015.
Polanca, A., ‘And the Survey Says… Homophobia is Down in Belize’, (News Five 17 April 2015)
<> accessed on 18 September 2015
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Belize,
(US Department of State 2014)
accessed on 5 September 2015
Global Gayz, 'Belize Transgender Woman Stoned And Beaten By Mob’, (Global Gayz 16 June 2014)
<> accessed on 19 July 2014
Littauer, D., ‘Gay man stabbed to death in Belize, family says it’s a “hate crime”’, (LGBTQ Nation 14 January
2014) <> accessed on 19 July 2014
Global Gayz, ‘Gay Murders in Belize’, (Global Gayz 15 February 2013)
<> accessed on 19 July
UNHRC, Compilation prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with
paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council
resolution 16/21: Belize, (7 August 2013), UN Doc A/HRC/WG.6/17/BLZ/2
Humes, A., ‘CCJ hearings end in the case of Maurice Tomlinson’, (Belize Breaking News, 18 March 2015)
OAS General Assembly, Draft Resolution Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity and Expression,
(5 June 2014) AG/CG/doc.12/14 rev. 1
The Bill is :
UNHRC, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, (11 December 2013) UN Doc
A/HRC/25/13, para. 96.
UNHRC, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, (11 December 2013) UN Doc
A/HRC/25/13, Recommendations 99.9, 99.17, 99.28-99.39.
UNHRC, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Belize - Addendum, (6 March 2014) UN
Doc A/HRC/25/13/Add.1
For further details, see -